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Nonfiction writer Hope Edelman returns

BY JASMINE PUTNEY | SEPTEMBER 11, 2014 5:00 AM

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When Hope Edelman puts pen to paper, a flood of memories, anecdotes, life lessons, and quotes take shape on the page. As a nonfiction writer, she draws inspiration from her life: her family, memories of adolescence, and her experiences.

University of Iowa Nonfiction Writing Program alumna and author Edelman will read from her bestselling works and discuss her career at 8 p.m. today at Prairie Lights, 15 S. Dubuque. The reading will be sponsored by the UI Nonfiction Writing Program in celebration of Edelman being named an Alumni Fellow for 2014.

“I started writing in the first grade. My teacher would put a star at the top of my papers …” she said. “I always had an inclination and desire to write, and I just never veered from that.” 

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University, she got a job as an editor and began looking for a place to start her master’s degree. Then, one of her writers introduced her to the UI, and fate took hold.

“Back then, there weren’t very many nonfiction programs to choose from,” Edelman said. “I was between two choices. I could go to the University of Colorado-Boulder and receive my master’s in journalism, which I didn’t really want. I just wanted to live in Boulder, Colorado. Or I could go to Iowa … So I came to visit, and I immediately fell in love. My decision to go to the University of Iowa was both well-thought-out and impulsive.”

The UI Nonfiction Program not only provided Edelman with a master’s degree but with knowledge that continued to influence her as a writer. After graduating, Edelman published six bestselling books — which have sold almost 1 million copies across 17 countries — and wrote essays featured in numerous publications, including the New York Times, Writer’s Digest, and Glamour.

“Those were life-changing years,” she said. “Those were the years that set the whole rest of my life in motion. It was definitely the most productive writing period of my life, and I wrote six books, so that’s saying a lot.”

In addition to the education Edelman received, friends she accumulated were one-of-a-kind. Edelman said they all helped each other rise to levels they may not have otherwise achieved as individuals.

John D’Agata of the UI Nonfiction Writing Program, who has known Edelman as an alum of the program, said he very much looks forward to the reading.

“She’s a beautiful nonfiction writer whose books are always impeccably researched and gorgeously written,” he said. “That combination is rare to find in a lot of nonfiction writing, however, because a lot of times, nonfiction books become overwhelmed by their research and lose sight of language.”

This will not be Edelman’s first appearance at Prairie Lights. She has read from her best-selling book Motherless Daughters and other books she has published, but her roots in the bookstore run even deeper. Prairie Lights co-owner Jan Weissmiller has known Edelman since the author was a student at UI. 

“Hope is a gifted writer and a woman who lives life fully,” Weissmiller said. “She brings the full force of her immense experience and complex emotional life to the page.”

After writing several books and a multitude of essays, articles, and reviews, Edelman has gained a vast amount of experience. She advised young writers that the best thing they can do is write.

“I’d tell [aspiring writers] to tell your stories honestly and authentically without censoring or worrying about how your readers will respond,” she said. “You can always go back and edit or change names if need be. Getting your story down in the purest and most honest form is the greatest gift you could give to yourself.” 


What: Hope Edelman reading
When: 8 p.m. today
Where: Prairie Lights, 15 S. Dubuque
Admission: Free


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